Do’s and Don’ts of Choosing the Most Wholesome Food for your Unique Dog
By Tom DeLauer I want you to pause for a moment and reflect on why you took the plunge to change your diet and begin living a healthy lifestyle. Sure, maybe you started for vanity reasons alone, but like most of us, it probably had something to do with a few less than optimal test results, or perhaps just because you simply didn’t feel well. When we continue eating a poor diet day in and day out, we experience symptoms such as fatigue, lethargy, brain fog, depression, body aches and pains, trouble breathing, cardiovascular problems, sleepless nights, thinning hair, and all in all, feeling run down. Staying active when you are struggling with these symptoms is another hurdle on its own, and even a hike or evening stroll with your pup seems draining. As a solution, you finally pull the trigger and get in the routine of eating healthier, your symptoms begin to fade, and all of a sudden, that hike with Fido doesn’t seem quite so daunting. Well, maybe not to you! Just like you, your dog may be experiencing many of the same negative symptoms, stemming from a poor diet and nutritional imbalance!
When my border collie, Bo, was about six years old, I started to notice his constant itching, scratching and grooming. Until that point, I had chalked up his fatigue, recurring ear infections and waxy, thinning coat as external allergies or part of his aging process, but then it hit me that he may be having a negative reaction to his food. My veterinarian was quick to advise that we begin ongoing allergy shots to relieve his symptoms, but my gut told me to try another approach and revisit the root problem: The food I was pouring in his bowl every day. As expected, Bo’s symptoms cleared up almost immediately upon eating a balanced diet, and my vibrant, playful border collie was back in action. So what exactly, are the do’s and don’ts of choosing the most wholesome food for your unique dog to keep him or her healthy, active and in your life for as long as possible?
Don’t Fill ‘em Up With Fillers: Many pet foods and treats contain fillers, such as corn, wheat and soy. These fillers are some of the most genetically modified and inflammatory foods, and as we know, they may be difficult to digest. Fillers may be contributing to anything from weight gain to malabsorption of nutrients to excessive plaque buildup and periodontal disease. Instead of feeding fillers, check your ingredient label for healthy grains, such as white or brown rice, or even try a grain free formula.
Bye-Bye To Byproducts: When looking over the ingredient list on your dog food, you may see that some of the meat used comes from byproducts. Byproducts are the unusable part of the slaughtered animal, otherwise known as the feet, ears, giblets, offal and brain. While these cuts may provide your pup with beneficial vitamins and nutrients, the byproducts used in your dog’s food may have a dirty secret. Essentially, there are two types of byproducts. The first type is fit for human consumption, and utilized in products such as hot dogs and bologna. The other type, however, may have come from animals dead on arrival, are rotten or spoiled, or for one reason or another are unfit for human consumption. These inedible byproducts are put through a rendering process, and then incorporated into your pets food. Ick!
Meet Meat Meal: Speaking of byproducts, what is meat meal? Meat meal, or animal meal, is an ingredient that should never be trusted in your beloved’s food, and the reason why may be shocking. Meat or animal meal is a pet food company’s way of being vague about the type of meat in your pet’s food. This is because meat meal could consist of a mixture of roadkill, dead and diseased livestock or poultry, dead zoo animals, and even euthanized pets. Instead, always make sure that your dog’s food clearly lists out the type of meat used in food production, so you can keep your dog healthy and happy!
Don’t Dye-It: Various food dyes found in pet foods are known carcinogens and can cause food sensitivities, allergies, behavioral changes and more. Call me crazy, but I’m sure that the colorful bits in your pooches chow only appeal to us humans. After all, dogs see colors much different than we do!
Read Labels: When reading an ingredient label, the main ingredient of the food is placed first in line, followed by the rest of the ingredients, in order by the quantity used. That said, make sure that your pet’s protein source is one of the first ingredients on your bag, and make sure that the meat source is properly listed out. Again, we don’t want to see “meat meal” on the bag, and instead want to see “Chicken” or “Chicken Meal”, for example. On the bag, you will also find the nutrition facts and a recommended feeding chart, for your dog’s age and weight. Labels are your friends, and they will help you keep your buddy looking and feeling great!
Pass the Broccoli: The vitamins and nutrients found in fruits and vegetables help improve your dog’s skin, coat, brain, eyesight, organ health, and overall body function, keeping your dog healthy, active and younger for longer! Your pet food should ideally list out various wholesome fruits and veggies so your pup is getting the benefits of a well-balanced diet, just like you! That said, ensure that you know which fruits and vegetables are safe, and unsafe, for your dog’s consumption, so you can give them a healthy treat at home.
Allow for a Transition Period: Upon choosing a new food, it would be a good idea to transition your pet from the old food slowly to avoid nausea or stomach upset. Especially if your pet has been enjoying one specific brand of food for a lengthy period of time, adding in a new, nutritiously dense food may be a shock to his system, and one that can be avoided. One recommendation has been to do this transition over the course of a week by incorporating ¾ of the recommended amount of the old food with ¼ of the new food for 2 days, then incorporate ½ of each food for three days, and finally end the last 2 days by feeding ¼ of the recommended amount of the old food and ¾ of the new food. Once this 7 day transition period is complete, switch your dog to the new food entirely! In a pinch, you can add plain canned pureed pumpkin to your dog’s food to help ease any stomach upset.
Talk to a Professional: While it may be easy to grabD a bag of dog food off of the shelf at your local grocery store, it is extremely beneficial to go to a holistic pet food store to purchase your pups food. Not only will they be more likely to carry healthy, nutritious and trustworthy brands, they will also have more knowledge to assist you in finding a food that is right for you and your pet. That said, it is always a good idea to visit a veterinarian or a pet nutritionist so that you can make the right choice for your individual dog.
Our dogs are our companions, whether by our side on a run or in the kitchen. With the large number of dog food brands on the shelves, knowing what to avoid, and what to include, in your dogs diet will help keep both you and your partner conquering those trails, one kibble at a time.